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“I didn’t like Homeschooling.” Those words, spoken by my 18-year-old son, cut into me more than he could know. Due to unforeseen circumstances Bradley entered public school the last quarter of third grade and never looked back.
What did I do so terribly wrong? Being the creative type, I used Konos and can proudly brag of sewing our own coonskin caps and crafting paper maiche muskets! The UPS man regularly commented that he could tell what we were studying based on the boys‘ costumes; frontiersmen, Indians, jesters…. We made weekly treks to the library, participated in a homeschool group, went on field trips and socialized with friends. With such an obviously rich learning environment what could be the problem?
Fear. That nasty four letter word. Fear of not covering everything the public school covered exactly when they covered it. Fear of what others would think. Fear of failure. And in response, I pushed. I pushed my son to complete each page, activity or assignment exactly when and how it was required by the curriculum regardless of his capabilities. Yes, we would get to the “fun stuff” later in the day, but the mornings were often full of tears, leaving us too hurt, stressed or frustrated to enjoy it when we did.
Hindsight is 20/20. Fortunately, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity of a second chance. Besides my two older boys, I have three much younger children. They enjoy homeschooling. No, we’re not all giggles and laughs, but there are very rarely tears. I’ve changed. My main goals are godliness and relationship. Secondly, I want to instill a desire and love for learning. Thirdly, opinions of others don’t come before what is best for my child.
This change in my outlook was exemplified by a conversation I overheard where one mother shared with another about a preschool boy who “didn’t even have basic letter recognition!” (gasp!!) Because of this he was receiving immediate attention. Oh my! Had they quizzed my then-kindergarten son they would have found him able to name only about half his letters. Instead of being horrified, I was simply amused.
You see, at that point in time, my son found schoolwork difficult and stressful. I knew he wasn’t ready to learn to read and just let it go. Not that he didn’t learn. He learned all kinds of things. He learned science and history and folk tales and, well the list goes on. He just didn’t learn his letters or to read. In Kindergarten. When he was supposed to.
That year, I sat down with an excited and enthusiastic little boy, yearning to learn to read. He finished all the work he should have last year in five weeks of school and was quickly right back “on track”. He’s loving it and SO proud! I could have spent an entire year pushing him to be where he “should” have been or we could catch up in five weeks of exciting, enjoyable education.
I’ve seen this time and again. Granted, there are times that we need to urge our children along and there are times that they will have to do something they’d prefer not to. But it’s often just as easy to shift our focus elsewhere, let them experience success and then share in the joy as they come back ready to tackle the initial task with fervor. Fortunately, as homeschoolers we are able to do just that. The little preschool boy mentioned earlier will likely develop a distaste for learning as well as a sense of inadequacy regarding his own abilities as he is forced to keep up with his classmates.
On a more amusing note, my oldest was recently filling out financial aid forms for college and I commented on his atrocious signature. He grinned and said, “well, it’s your fault.”
“WHAT! How could it be my fault?” I countered.
It turns out that, in spite of all my pushing, I’d neglected to note that children learn cursive in third grade. I never taught him. He entered school at year-end and somehow faked it through that year and the nine that followed. Here he was, graduating with honors, and I’m just NOW finding out he doesn’t know cursive! Sometimes ya just gotta laugh!
I did ask if he wanted me to teach him and he said, “that would be helpful.” Another second chance!